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London study suggests PHEV vans a practical, accessible solution for cleaner air in European cities

Three months since the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London, results of a year-long trial in the capital suggest that plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) commercial vehicles could present the most practical, readily available option for businesses trying to meet clean-air targets in cities.


The trial—supported by a £4.7-million (US$5.9-million) grant from the UK Government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre—consisted of 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans (earlier post) covering 240,000 km (150,000 miles) over a 12-month period. The vans are driven exclusively by the electric traction motor; a combustion engine serves as a range extender. Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid van estimated CO2 emissions are 75 g/km, with fuel-efficiency from 3.3 l/100km (71.2 mpg US).

The trial sought to test whether businesses could carry out the typical daily duties of their diesel-powered vehicles, while maximizing the use of zero-emissions electric-only mode.

The participants in the trial—Addison Lee Group, Autoglass, British Gas, Clancy Plant, DPD, Heathrow Airport, Interserve, Mears Group, the Metropolitan Police, Morrison Utility Services, RNLI, Royal Mail, Speedy Hire, Sky, Transport for London and Vodafone—represented a cross-section of city-based businesses, and integrated the Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans into their day-to-day operations.

During the trial, 75% of the fleet’s mileage in Central London and 49% in Greater London was completed using pure electric power. The results highlight that even without a fully established electric vehicle charging network, the hybrid vans were able to reduce tailpipe emissions significantly in the inner city, using the flexibility of a gasoline range-extender to complete longer journeys when required.

Commercial vehicles in London together make 280,000 journeys on a typical weekday, traveling a total of 13 million km (8 million miles); this figure is rising. Vans represent 75% of peak freight traffic, with more than 7,000 vehicles per hour driving at peak times in Central London alone.

A similar picture can be found in other major European cities, driven partly by rapid growth in online retail. Consequently, tighter emissions controls are being introduced by authorities throughout the continent, increasing pressure on businesses to find sustainable, practical solutions.

Emissions-free mobility is essential for the future of our cities and their citizens, but we know there are still barriers we face in the move to electrification. We also know that businesses still have legitimate concerns about the range of fully-electric vehicles, as well as their cost-effectiveness and reliability. These trials have helped Ford and its customers to investigate the extent to which PHEVs can help to achieve urban air quality goals, whilst not compromising on productivity.

—Mark Harvey, director, Urban Electrified Van program

Ford has already incorporated learnings from the trial of prototype vehicles to optimize the Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid production model that will go on sale to customers at the end of 2019. Enhancements include increased motor performance, optimized operating strategies, and revised displays to educate drivers in achieving maximum electric regeneration.

Further trials in Cologne and Valencia will provide data from different markets, cities and customer types, and will involve a mix of Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans and new Tourneo Custom Plug-In Hybrid people-movers. These two models are the first vehicles in their classes to offer plug-in hybrid technology, and offer a standard eight-year battery warranty.

The new vehicles target a zero-emission driving range of 50 kilometers (31 miles), and use a 1.0-liter EcoBoost petrol engine as a range extender for total range exceeding 500 kilometers (310 miles). A compact battery pack located under the vehicle floor can be conveniently charged using a standard 230-volt supply, and is designed so that the interior space and load capacity of the vehicle is not compromised.

Four selectable EV modes allow the driver to choose when to use electric power stored in the battery and when to recharge the battery using the range extender to optimise use of both energy sources.

  • EV Auto
  • EV Now
  • EV Later
  • EV Charge

The fleet trial vans are being designed and engineered at Ford’s Dunton, UK, technical center, and at Prodrive Advanced Technology in Banbury, UK, with program support from Revolve Technologies.

Ford recently announced that a new all-electric Ford Transit will join the company’s European line-up of electrified commercial vehicles in 2021. Designed to deliver pure-electric propulsion, the new van will contribute to cleaner, quieter towns and cities, and reduced running costs for business and operators.

Ford is the Nº 1 commercial brand in Europe and Ford Transit range sales rose by 11.8% in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period last year, with total sales of 81,700.



Called it.

One detail I've never seen addressed is higher-power charging.  The previous piece does not mention the electric motor power, but in general inverters for EVs must also operate in regeneration mode to charge the battery.  It should be possible to use the inverters to charge from sources like 480 V 3φ power, which would greatly increase the charging speed and make brief "opportunity charging" stops replace a lot more fuel consumption.

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